Hundreds rallied Saturday in Tokyo to protest a decision by prosecutors to drop charges over the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns, meaning no one has been indicted, let alone punished, nearly three years after a calamity ruled “man-made.”
Official records do not list anyone as having died as a direct result of radioactive fallout after the tsunami unleashed by the 9.0-magnitude quake of March 11, 2011, crashed into the Fukushima No. 1 plant, swamping cooling systems and causing three reactor meltdowns.
Excluded from those records are Fukushima residents who committed suicide owing to fears about the fallout showered on their hometowns, while others died during the evacuation process. Official data released last week showed that 1,656 people have died in the prefecture from stress and other illnesses related to the nuclear crisis.
“There are many victims of the accident, but no one” has been charged, chief rally organiser Ruiko Muto, 61, told the protesters, displaying a photo of the village of Kawauchi, which fell inside the no-go zone designated by the government around the stricken power plant.
“We are determined to keep telling our experiences as victims to pursue the truth of the disaster, and we want to avoid a repeat in the future,” she said.
“I used to grow organic rice. . . . But I can’t do so any more because of consumers’ worries over radioactive contamination,” Kazuo Nakamura, 45, a farmer from the city of Koriyama in Fukushima, told the rally.
“I want officials of (No. 1 plant operator) Tokyo Electric Power Co. and officials and bureaucrats of the central government to eat Fukushima-grown rice,” he shouted to applause.
A parliamentary report has said Fukushima was a “man-made” disaster caused by Japan’s culture of “reflexive obedience,” and not only attributable to the tsunami of March 2011.
Campaigners allege that state officials and Tepco executives failed to take measures to bolster the plant against a natural disaster of the magnitude of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. They also hold them responsible for delays in announcing how the radiation was projected to spread from the No. 1 plant.
But prosecutors decided to exempt all of them, saying Tepco and government officials could not have anticipated such a powerful quake and tsunami, and that they had found nothing wrong with the post-disaster response given the environment of crisis.
Yet Hiroyuki Kawai, a lawyer representing the campaigners, said “there were lots of measures that officials could have taken to prevent the disaster.”
“We won’t give up (pushing for) indictment of the officials,” he said.